Realty sector banks on key bills for recovery

Kolkata, Jan 15 (IANS) India's realtors, who saw lackluster business last year, are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping for better market sentiments this year. They are also banking on vital legislation that the government is set to introduce in next month's budget session of parliament that would be critical for the sector's growth.

"Currently, the real estate sector is going through a low morale. The coming two months are crucial for polity making. Then we can hope for a very good and vibrant year," developers' apex body CREDAI president Lalit Kumar Jain told IANS.

The centre is likely to table the Real Estate Regulation Bill in the budget session to establish a watchdog for the sector for enforcing accountability norms and fair practice.s The draft legislation has been pending since 2009.

Also, the new Land Acquisition Bill could not be passed in the winter session (Nov-Dec 2012) and was deferred till the budget session by the Lok Sabha as many parties wanted more time to discuss the provisions of the contentious measure.

Safe passage of the two bills is expected to boost market sentiments.

Jain said the real estate sector was looking for a "comprehensive regulator" who should act as a single clearance agency and also settle disputes between real estate players and consumers.

"Now we have to go to multiple agencies for getting clearances for a project. The real estate sector is looking for a comprehensive regulator. It will direct the planning authorities to issue whatever clearances are needed to avoid unwanted delays. It is up to the government," he said.

"Currently, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), consumer courts or civil courts are there to settle disputes with consumers. That leads to waste of time and increase in costs. The regulator should work as a singular dispute settler for the sector. It would be very cost-effective," Jain observed.

He said if the government put in place the required policy changes, the country's realty sector would hot up.

Jain expected that the UPA government's decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail would push up construction in this sector.

"But retail sector construction is a very small portion of the entire gamut of our industry," he clarified.

Nandu K. Belani, chairman of the Belani Group, one of Kolkata's leading builders, was also looking at the budget session, expecting that the government would introduce necessary policies to light up the realty business.

"I am looking at the budget session as the Real Estate Regulation Bill is expected to be introduced. When implemented, it will bring more transparency in the business, which is good for the industry. It will also attract FDI in the sector," Belani told IANS.

"The slowdown of the economy in the last two years badly affected the real estate business. As the general election is due in 2014, I think the market sentiments will improve in the next two-three months with the government coming up with policies to boost the economy. And it will also give a fillip to the real estate sector," he added.

Jain, however, was of the view that the Land Acquisition Bill would result in an increase in land prices for real estate developers.

"The new bill will push up land prices. Land will be costlier because of higher rehabilitation packages. And that will lead to higher prices of projects. It may affect demand," he averred.

(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted at mithun.d@ians.in)

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